“You only have to know one thing,” Sal Khan

Sal Khan (of Khan Academy) has just released a video that would persuade us, persuade you, that “you can learn anything.”

To watch the video go here: “You only have to know one thing.”

I found the video in my inbox the other day and wrote Sal the following note in response:

Well, Sal, yes, you can learn anything, but not necessarily within the time you may have available, be it a class of 60 minutes, a day in school, a week’s classes, a semester, 12 years of schooling, or if you go on college and graduate school,16 or more years, and finally a lifetime of lifelong learning.

Aren’t you, isn’t Khan Academy overlooking the speed at which we learn the “anything?” And don’t we all realize early on, almost the day we begin to learn, that some of us learn the same “anything” much more quickly than others of us?

And as a result one has to conclude that there are those of us who may be willing and interested, but who will need more time than they may have. There are those of us, probably most if not all of us in respect to at least some of the things out there that we might learn, who will not have enough time in this life to learn them.

In my own case there are a few “anythings” that I’ve been trying for years to learn, not master just learn, chess, mathematics, and then several second languages, up until now unsuccessfully. I’m 82 and it’s getting late in my life. But Sal I’ve tremendously enjoyed and am still enjoying your marvelous calculus videos, most recently sequences, series, and function approximations, and at this very moment the tests for series convergence and divergence.

You tell me I can learn anything, that I can therefore learn even these series tests, and so far I believe you. But I’m not there yet, and I wonder if there will be time enough for me to get there?

But let’s suppose I do. Then there will be the myriad things still out there, no less interesting, that I want to learn just as much, but in regard to most of which I haven’t even begun to do so, and there is so little time remaining.

But I do understand why you say what you say. I say much the same thing to my grandchildren. However, it’s not something we know, this conclusion you’ve come to about being able to learn anything. It’s a belief, but a valid belief, probably one we want to hold onto.

Thanks, Sal. And you do seem to be an exception to what I’m saying, for you do seem, to the millions of us who watch your thousands of videos, to have learned everything.


Philip Waring

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